The Challenge of Choosing a Prophylactic Mastectomy

Coping with the fear and uncertainty surrounding breast cancer is one of the most difficult challenges for many women. After a breast cancer diagnosis, it can be hard not to get bogged down worrying, not only for yourself and your health, but for your loved ones and how this life-changing diagnosis will affect them too. This fear can be just as real for women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but have an unusually high risk for developing it due to a family history of breast cancer or certain genetic mutations.

A prophylactic mastectomy (sometimes known as a preventative mastectomy) is a surgical procedure in which a woman with a high breast cancer risk has one or both breasts removed to prevent breast cancer before it develops. While this may seem a bit extreme to some, prophylactic mastectomies are exceptionally effective for preventing breast cancer. According to statistics from the National Cancer Institute, a prophylactic mastectomy may be able to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 95% for women who carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. It can also significantly reduce risk for women with a strong family history of breast cancer.

Still, opting for a prophylactic mastectomy is a complicated, deeply-personal decision that cannot be taken lightly. To help you better understand the weight of this choice, we have invited some of our Pink Ribbon Story Foundation breast cancer ambassadors to share their first-hand experience of how they decided to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy:

“The turning point is when you decide and you have no regret.” – PRSF Breast Cancer Ambassador Sandi S.

“I think the turning point is when you decide, and you have no regret, and you move forward. Some people need other kinds of processes. They need to grieve; they need a lot of support. I have a great amount of support from my family and my friends. I just needed to move on and know that this is behind me.”

“It was not from a position of fear.  It was from a position of strength.” – PRSF Breast Cancer Ambassador Amy M.

“I’m not willing to get the diagnosis first. I’m going to do this before I get the diagnosis. I do feel like me moving forward was not from a position of fear; it was totally from a position of strength. Where that came from, I don’t know. Where do you find the strength every day to get up and get on and act like your life is not falling apart around you?”

We hope this has been helpful for anyone considering a prophylactic mastectomy. Before making any decisions, a woman must discuss all her options with her medical team, as well as her family and loved ones, to determine if their personal breast cancer risk warrants such a proactive approach. For more information or if you would like to share your personal breast cancer story with the world, please contact Pink Ribbon story Foundation today. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more news, tips, and updates.

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